Our breast cancer specialists are nationally recognized for their research and expertise in detecting, evaluating and treating all types of breast cancer. Whether you come to us for routine mammogram, breast cancer treatments, or a second opinion, our goal is to provide the best possible care for your breast health, and exceed your expectations.
Extensive experience in breast cancer treatments
As a National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, we offer a level of expertise found only in the top cancer centers across the country. Our teams of physicians, surgeons, counselors and therapists have made breast cancer their top priority. Our skills and experience come from working only with breast cancer patients every day. We use the latest technologies and research findings to detect abnormal breast lumps and masses, and treat all types of breast cancer. And, if you require breast reconstruction, our plastic surgeons are available to discuss your options.
Choose Duke for your breast cancer treatment because we offer:
- Novel therapies developed by our researchers. As clinical trial participants, our patients were among the first to gain access to new breast cancer treatments, including the recently approved Kadcyla, which was developed at Duke.
- Nationally ranked cancer program. We are consistently ranked among the best cancer programs in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.
- Access to our clinical trials. Our doctors are investigating new ways to approach breast tumors, how exercise impacts treatment and survival, and how to improve the quality of our patients’ lives. You may be eligible to participate in our clinical trials, which are using new vaccines to treat different types of breast cancer, including early stage breast cancer, HER2, HER3, triple negative and metastatic breast cancer.
- Doctors who come to you. Rather than find your way to the various appointments involved in cancer diagnosis and treatment, each member of your breast cancer team visits you in your exam room. That goes a long way toward reducing unnecessary stress and anxiety. It also ensures you have all the information you need to make decisions about your care. Imaging, testing and breast cancer treatments are also conveniently located within our facilities.
- Comforting environment to ease your anxiety. Our Duke Cancer Center features spacious waiting areas, a Quiet Room, large infusion rooms, and an outdoor rooftop garden area where patient, based on their treatment regimen, can receive chemotherapy outdoors.
- Clinics for women with unique needs. We offer clinics devoted to specific types of breast cancer, different age groups, and unique healthcare needs, including sexual health and fertility issues for women in their childbearing years.
- Doctors who work with your doctors. If you seek care at Duke and continue your radiation or chemotherapy closer to home, our doctors will coordinate your treatment plan with your doctors. We also provide second opinions and share information with doctors near you.
- Support for your whole being. Our comprehensive cancer support services range from helping patients minimize the side effects of treatment to coping with the emotional and psychological effects of diagnosis and treatment. Our breast cancer survivorship clinic also pulls together a range of resources specially designed to help survivors after treatment ends.
- Nationally accredited breast imaging program. Our breast cancer program is an American College of Radiology Breast Center of Excellence, and has undergone a rigorous review process to ensure it meets and follows national standards and guidelines. It is accredited in breast ultrasound, breast MRI, screening mammograms, and diagnostic mammograms and stereotactic biopsies.
The placement of low-dose radioactive seeds in suspicious breast tissue replaces the need for guide wires, and allows surgeons to pinpoint and remove small breast tumors. The seed can be implanted up to five days before surgery, which minimizes your discomfort and shortens the surgery.
Depending on your needs, we offer a wide range of options including:
- Lumpectomy and quadrantectomy. Breast-conserving lumpectomy removes the cancer and a small amount of surrounding breast tissue. A quadrantectomy removes the cancer and a larger amount of surrounding breast tissue. When appropriate, we combine these lumpectomy procedures with breast reconstruction or breast reduction.
- Skin-sparing and nipple-sparing mastectomies. Often performed when breast removal and breast reconstruction are performed during the same operation. A small incision made around the areola — the dark skin around the nipple — allows the surgeon to remove the entire breast, nipple and areola without removal of the breast skin. Nipple-sparing mastectomy removes all the breast tissue but spares the nipple or areola. Both approaches optimize cosmetic reconstruction results.
- Modified-radical and radical mastectomies. During a modified-radical mastectomy, surgeons will remove the entire breast, including the skin, areola and nipple, as well as most of the lymph nodes in the armpit area. It is usually performed if the tumor is large and cancer has spread to the lymph nodes. Modified-radical mastectomy is more commonly performed than radical mastectomy, when the entire breast, lymph nodes and chest wall muscles under the breast is removed.
- Sentinel node biopsy. Removes lymph node tissue to determine if cancer cells have spread.
A full spectrum of options are available, including implant reconstruction, as well as techniques that use your own healthy tissue. Our plastic surgeons can also use tissue or unwanted fat from your body to more closely match your other breast. If possible, breast reconstruction surgery can be performed at the time of mastectomy, or after chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Learn more about breast reconstruction.
Our radiation oncologists use targeted and shortened courses of external radiation beams to shrink tumors after surgery. Techniques like breath holding and prone breast positioning are incorporated to minimize radiation exposure to normal tissue, including the heart.
In addition to a wide variety of chemotherapy regimens, which aim to kill or stop cancer cells from growing, we offer hormone-blocking and endocrine therapies to prevent them from returning or spreading in cancers that respond to estrogen and progesterone.
Our doctors helped to developed two of the most recently FDA-approved drugs for breast cancer. Ado-trastuzumab emtansine (Kadcyla) has been referred to as a "smart bomb" because it targets the tumor, lacks significant side effects, and offers patients a better quality of life. Lapatinib (Tykerb), also developed by Duke physicians, is used to treat HER2-metastatic breast cancer, and targets and blocks the signals that breast tumors need to grow. It’s an added option for women whose breast cancer has stopped responding to other treatments.
Our breast imaging specialists have advanced training in detecting and identifying lumps and masses. Mammography is available at six convenient locations in Durham and Wake counties. Same-day appointments are available, and you’ll get same-day results during our Saturday clinics. Learn more about mammograms at Duke.
Breast imaging, including mammography, breast ultrasound, breast MRI, or nuclear medicine, may be recommended if breast lumps or suspicious findings are identified. Each uses different breast imaging techniques to pinpoint types of masses and detect cancer cells.
MRI and ultrasound-guided needle, stereotactic and surgical breast biopsies remove a small sample of suspicious breast growth to be examined for cancer cells.
If you are at risk for inherited breast cancer, our genetic counselors in the Duke Hereditary Cancer Clinic may work with you to evaluate your risk. If appropriate, they may recommend screening for BRCA1 and/or BRCA2 genes — the most common cause of hereditary breast cancer — and will help you interpret your results. With these facts, they can discuss the options that will keep you and your family healthy.